Sunday, 12 October 2014


My race partner Sean Badenhorst used the word combination preparation/trepidation to describe his activities and mindset leading up to The Munga. The key word in this combo is "trepidation". It's often paired with fear as in "...with fear and trepidation...". Fear is a synonym for trepidation so pairing those words simply aids to underscore the feeling of disquiet and anxiety. Anxiety ahead of and during a race can be decidedly debilitating. My first Freedom Challenge race was back in 2007. I think I lost about 10 kg's that year, most of it due to anxiety. The Freedom Trail route takes riders into and through some incredibly remote spaces both geographically and mentally. When you don't know what lies yonder you feel like a nervous explorer of old heading over the horizon into an area marked 'hic sunt dracones' 'here are dragons'. Had a very real sense of that during the 2007 Freedom. Somewhere just north of Molteno it started snowing and what at first was a picturesque fairytale setting soon settled into a desperate fight to survive the weather. In hindsight it wasn't so bad but I had absolutely no idea where the trail was headed and what obstacles I would face so the desperation mushroomed in that knowledge vacuum. Foreknowledge of the challenges you will face allows you to mentally prepare. Leading up to this years Race to Rhodes I had mentally ridden the race at least once everyday for the last month. Detailed knowledge of the terrain allowed me to formulate a minute by minute strategy that apart from an unforeseen wind storm worked out almost as planned. 
Heading up to The Munga we know only half a dozen things, start near Bloemfontein, end near Stellenbosch, support stations roughly every 180 km's and water should be available every 60 kms or so. No seconding and outside assistance. That's it. 
Oh, one more thing we thought we knew - the route will be marked. Can confidently say it is highly unlikely as logistically it is impossible to do so. The race route will be GPS guided. 
With all the uncertainty, don't get me wrong, I am not criticising, the mental preparation is limited to the obvious challenges such as how and what will I eat and drink, how long before I stop to sleep etc. 
The physical preparation is all about hardening up on the bike, predominantly time in the saddle. 
Lacking data you tend to speculatively fill in the blanks. I guess we will leave Bloemfontein and head toward Stellenbosch keeping west of the N1. That should route us near De Aar toward the Roggeveld mountains near Sutherland before dropping into the Western Cape and then snake through the Skurweberge mountains near Ceres to Tulbagh and then head south to the finish. All wild speculation! The route will be revealed the day before the race by which time the die will already be well and truly cast. 
Without adequate mental hard points to fix on the challenge is tougher. Fear is amplified. You either succumb to that fear or use it to motivate. As a motivator it is a powerful tool. Sure I have fears. Fear of failing to finish, fear of being the weak link in the partnership. These fears properly harnessed will be the motivation to get out on my bike, get me into a regular stretching and body conditioning regime and get me to push beyond my comfort zones. 

I have heard people say it takes a certain amount of courage to embark on a race like The Munga. It's going to be hard and we are going to hurt and most certainly go to dark places and the prospect of not finishing is a very real threat. For those of us who have experienced the hardship of endurance events these very challenges are what makes our ears prick up and and those desperate words roll uncontrollably from our lips "please pick me"

"Courage is not the absence of fear but rather the judgement that something is more important than fear; The brave may not live forever but the cautious do not live at all." Meg Cabot

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